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Birzeit University comes to agreement with protesting students

Text and image posted on the Facebook page of the Birzeit University Student Union

Posted text:
“Our colleagues the students – your demands have been achieved
Long live Birzeit [University], a beacon of national unity”

The image shows an agreement between the Birzeit University administration and the student council and student movement. There are 10 clauses in the agreement, the first nine of which deal with financial matters such as not raising tuition, scholarships, exemptions for students that excel, student services, and easements in registration. The tenth and last clause hints at other matters: “10: The dialogue over the other issues that were brought up at the meeting in recent days will be completed.” This is followed by signatures of university and student representatives.

Students at Birzeit University protested in December 2019 and January 2020 over the cost of tuition and other financial matters, and over the university’s ban on military expression on campus, leading the university to suspend classes. According to Birzeit University Vice President Ghassan Al-Khatib, students violated the university’s policy by “marching in military uniforms or clothing (kufieh) [parentheses in source, i.e., Arab headdress] symbolizing the Palestinian struggle, and by displaying cartoon models depicting resistance weapons and tools.” [Al-Monitor, Dec. 30, 2019]

The university’s ban has existed for years; Birzeit University Dean of Advanced Degrees Mahdi Arar said: “Years ago, the student blocs signed a charter of honor [under which they] refrained from all types of militarism at the university." [Alaraby.co.uk, Dec. 11, 2019]

However, its recent strict implementation is apparently based on pressure from Israel and foreign donors, as noted by various university faculty members. “University Employee Union Secretary Sameh Abu 'Awwad explained: ‘The university is subject to pressure from the occupation... and from donors who are yielding to its dictates’ …He added that, in recent years, some countries had already stopped funding the university, and others were threatening to do so.” [Alaraby.co.uk, December 16, 2019]

The protest ended on Jan. 9, 2020, with an agreement between the university administration and student council. Its first nine clauses discussed tuition and other financial matters, and the tenth and last clause noted in a general manner that other issues will be discussed. Its first nine clauses discussed tuition and other financial matters, and the tenth and last clause noted in a general manner that other issues will be discussed.